“Did some things really well, at times. Did some good things in tempo, and sometimes our tempo wasn't good, and we didn't execute well enough. Ultimately, if you just don't execute the way you need to against a really good defense, a good football team, you won't win the ballgame.”
Notre Dame's slow and methodical third-quarter drives made it difficult for OU's offense to find any rhythm.
The Irish took the second-half's opening kick and drove 60 yards on 13 plays. That the series ended with a missed field goal didn't matter nearly as much as the nearly seven minutes of game clock it consumed.
The Fighting Irish possessed the football for 11:35 — nearly 80 percent — of the third quarter.
“That was a big help,” said Notre Dame linebacker Manti Te'o. “It kept us fresh and allowed us to make corrections that we needed to.”
By controlling the ball, taking away OU's ability to complete long passes and suffocating the Sooners' ground attack, all Notre Dame needed was for its offense to come up with a couple big plays.
That's exactly what it did; a 62-yard, first-quarter touchdown run gave Notre Dame an early lead and momentum, and a 50-yard completion in the fourth — coming just after OU had tied the game at 13 — set up the last go-ahead score the Irish would need.
“In the second half, the focus was on physical and mental toughness,” said Notre Dame coach Brian Kelly. “The team that would win this game would control it in that manner. I thought we did it.
“We controlled the football and limited the possessions for Oklahoma.”